Friday, June 24, 2016

Ocean Conservation Through Art – Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs

Editors Note: We are proud to have partnered over the years with the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs to support young people interested in using art as a tool to communicate ocean conservation through our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit program. In this guest blog, Alyssa Irizarry shares her personal journey to her role as program manager with Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, and highlights outstanding student created art pieces submitted through their annual Ocean Awareness Student Contest.

When I was a senior in high school, two classmates and I painted a mural on the door of our marine biology classroom. The mural depicted a cross section of a rocky seamount and incorporated the many topics we had covered thus far in the semester.

The mural was not for extra credit, nor did we paint it, necessarily, for fun. As advanced studio art students, we were given the option of painting the mural instead of writing a paper, which provided us with a different opportunity to reflect on our lessons in marine ecology.

At first glance, it may seem like the three of us certainly lucked out; however, the project was not as simple as grabbing a few brushes and tubes of primary colors. We had to petition the principal for permission to paint on the door, and we had to create budgets for materials and for time. We had to develop the mural’s design and in planning, we had to do research on the ecosystem in order to accurately illustrate it. The assignment reinforced our skills in teamwork, time management, and research.

Most importantly, the project showed me that I didn’t need to have an interest in art or in science. The two – together – are a very powerful tool. As an undergrad, I became very interested in the ways that the arts can be used, specifically, to communicate environmental conservation. Art can – and should – be harnessed to inspire a greater appreciation for and a more nuanced understanding of the natural world – and the many serious issues facing it.

My lifelong interest in the ocean and the arts has taken me from Mexico (conducting research on sea turtle murals) to The Bahamas (teaching environmental art)… and to Massachusetts, where I am now the Program Manager at Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, a Boston-based nonprofit with a mission to inspire and empower the next generation of ocean caretakers through art, science, and advocacy. 

 “Title,” by Jonathan Barrera, 2015 Silver Award (High School) Winner in Art

Each year Bow Seat hosts the Ocean Awareness Student Contest, which challenges middle and high school students around the world to communicate the science of pressing ocean issues through art, poetry, prose, or film. The theme of this year’s Contest is “Making Meaning of Ocean Pollution,” and we want students to use their problem-solving skills, creativity, and communication skills to raise awareness about ocean pollution and to call the world to action.

I recently attended a lecture on the impact of shipping and seismic exploration noise on marine wildlife, whales in particular. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable on ocean issues, but I was blown away at the extent to which we’re polluting our oceans with noise. You can learn more about noise pollution at

Last year, the Contest received over 1,100 amazing submissions from 43 U.S. states and 34 countries. Bow Seat awarded hundreds of prizes to students and their schools and teachers – more than $80,000 in total! But we don’t just want the Contest to end at the prize. We also help find exhibition and publishing opportunities for the winners throughout the year to help them jumpstart a career in “ARTivism.”

We want students to understand art’s potential to motivate action.

The mechanical pencil
I scratch this poem out with
Is plastic
The material of infinite human uses
Destroying our world’s first gift

The keys I will use to tap out
The sad song my pen sings
Are plastic Used to create a portal of knowledge
But will poison and choke Earth’s greatest miracle

An unsuspecting marlin
Will swallow a splinter of my pencil
Poked through the stomach
Wasting away in the deep

A careless pelican
Will ingest the keys
That once typed this poem
A nefarious alphabet soup

Excerpt from “Indispensable Devices, Trashed Every Day,” by Connor Webb, 2015 Gold Award (Middle School) in Poetry

Through reflections and evaluations, we have found that students who participate in our Contest are often learning about threats to ocean ecosystems for the first time. The creative outlet for processing new knowledge makes that information stick, often resulting in meaningful and long-lasting behavior change within students. In their own words:

“Whenever I go to the lake or ocean and see trash, rather than just leaving it, I now pick it up. I used to think it wasn't my responsibility.”

“I'm far more conscious of my plastics usage. I make more responsible choices now. And I advocate more for the oceans and water systems more than ever.”

We at Bow Seat believe that changing our world for the better starts by inspiring youth to vividly imagine a better future and empowering them to create it themselves. We invite you to learn more about the Ocean Awareness Student Contest and consider submitting your own entry for next year's contest! 

Connect with Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Friday, February 12, 2016

2015 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit mini-grant recipients announced!

Each year, students attending our Youth Ocean Conservation Summits create action plans to tackle marine conservation issues in their local community. Over the past four years, we’ve been honored to support these projects by providing mini-grants to help jump start and sustain these youth-driven ocean conservation campaigns. After our 5th anniversary Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, we’re excited to announce a record number of mini-grants have been awarded to our participants. These Youth Ocean Conservation Team mini-grants were made possible with generous support from the Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Klean Kanteen, From the Bow Seat and funds raised from our 2015 Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival. Read on to learn more about the outstanding projects being led by our grant recipients:

Keyla Correia and the Plastic Free Mermaids will expand their plastic pollution efforts by installing a water bottle refill attachment to their school’s water fountain, and educating their student body on the importance of reducing single use plastics.

Landon Petrisko will work with his peers and Florida International University to raise and plant red mangroves to restore coastal habitat in south Florida.

Alex Gregory will launch his S.S. Shrimp project to raise awareness among consumers about the impact of shrimp bycatch, encouraging them to make sustainable seafood purchases.

The National Aquarium’s Aquarium on Wheels program will host their third annual satellite Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, training students in Baltimore, MD.

Ethan Mengelt’s roadside cleanup program will engage community members in organized cleanups along roadways in North Port, FL and Wisconsin.

Cameron Rogister’s Wilson & Wake County Recycling Project will engage young people in implementing and leading recycling programs at Forest Hills Middle School in Wilson, NC and the Boys & Girls Club in Raleigh, NC.

Morgan Shirley will launch the River Guardians Afterschool Water Monitoring Project to engage Boys and Girls club members in Greenville, NC in weekly water quality monitoring activities, and educating their community about the importance of clean water.

Through her Sarasota Ocean Preservers program, Brooke Welch will engage students in underwater snorkel cleanups, removing marine debris from underwater environments off the beaches of Sarasota, FL.

Christian Petrisko will launch a program to utilize photography to capture images of endangered marine species and those not frequently photographed. He will use these photos to raise awareness for the conservation of these animals, and sell prints at local events to raise funds for conservation efforts.

Delaney Farrell will expand her outreach efforts through her Finformation program, educating students ages 6-18 about shark conservation through interactive activities and presentations at schools and community events.

Student leaders from the Big Blue and You will launch T4T: Transformation 4 Turtles, will work educate students in south Florida about marine debris prevention, engage young people in beach cleanups, and turn the trash they find into an art sculpture to display in their community.

Jacob Mohen will work to educate members of his community about the impacts of plastic pollution on wildlife, and provide them with alternatives to single use plastic products.

Students in Brevard Zoo’s teen program will coordinate their annual Youth Environmental Summit which gives youth the tools and knowledge to become involved with local conservation projects.

Samantha Andrews will launch her Pop It, Don’t Drop It project, which will utilize a variety of outreach tools to educate community members about the dangers of releasing helium balloons.

Benjamin Sachs will work with his local Boy Scout Troop to engage in ongoing water quality/pH monitoring efforts in Broward County to gain a better understanding of the impact of pollutants on south Florida aquatic ecosystems.

Ryan Moralevitz will work with his classmates on his Fishes Wishes Mangrove Nursery Project, which will engage students in growing mangroves in a vertical garden at their school, and ultimately planting mangroves back in the marine environment.

Adam Sachs, Katelyn Higgins, and Elinor Rienzo will also receive grants of materials for Stow It-Don’t Throw It personal-sized fishing line recycling bins to engage anglers and boaters in their community in protecting marine wildlife from fishing line entanglement.
In addition to the students receiving grants after participating in our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in Sarasota, FL on November 14 in Sarasota, FL we’re also excited to award 3 grants to students who attended our first satellite Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in Long Island, NY on November 21 hosted by Coastal Steward Inc. and New York Sea Grant:

Students at LeRoy Jr/Sr High School in LeRoy, NY will launch their Safe Disposal Program to help their local government implement a safe pharmaceutical collection program. They will also provide information to the public about the correct disposal of pharmaceuticals by creating an interactive model and brochures.

Sarah Whelan will launch YOU: Youth and Oysters United to educate young people in her community about water quality and engage them in oyster restoration projects.

The Environmental Outreach Club at Mount Sanai High School will educate the student body about the importance of reducing plastics, and implement efforts to encourage the use of reusable water bottles, while working to install water bottle refill stations on campus.

Congratulations to these young people, and all of our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit participants for their outstanding ocean conservation work. Stay tuned for more updates on these projects!